7 Strategies for Avoiding Blackouts (that don't involve quitting alcohol)

“The last thing I hear is my heels, steady as a metronome, echoing through the lobby. And then there is nothing.

This happens to me sometimes. A curtain falling in the middle of the act, leaving minutes and sometimes hours in the dark. But anyone watching me wouldn’t notice. They’d simply see a woman on her way to somewhere else, with no idea her memory just snapped in half.”

Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget


When I first read the above passage from Sarah Hepola’s new book Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget it gave me the chills.

I have had more blackouts that I can count. For me, blackouts were the ugly, scary end result of “too much fun.” The irony is that too much fun led to shame, regret, and grief … an aching sadness over significant periods of time “lost” with no means of recollection.

Many of my clients come to me with similar experiences. Blackouts are listed as one of the worst negative consequences of their drinking. For many women the goal is learning how to manage their alcohol so that they can go out, drink, have a great time and remember every second of it.

Blackouts seem to start at a blood alcohol content of around .20, and women often reach that level quicker than men, which means that we are more prone to blackouts. Why does this happen?

In her article “Anatomy of a Blackout,” Julie Beck writes that women have less alcohol dehydrogenase in their guts—an enzyme that helps break down alcohol. The effect: a woman will likely absorb about 30% more alcohol into her bloodstream than a man of the same weight who has consumed an equal amount. Women also have less free-floating water in their bodies than men do, and since alcohol disperses in body water, we maintain a higher concentration for longer. Simply put, if you are going shot for shot with a dude at the bar, you are going to get way more wasted, and be much more likely to blackout.

The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse describes low risk drinking as no more than 3 drinks a night for women, and 4 drinks a night for men. I used to think this was “crazy low” - something concocted by the fun police rather than put in place to provide sound health recommendations. But the more I researched, I realized the guidelines are not meant to oppress women and take away our freedom to drink as much as men. And as Drinkaware.uk writes, “It’s not sexism, it’s biology.”

While it’s hard to know the exact number of women who suffer from blackouts because so many go unreported, recent studies of college students show that 1 in 4 students who drink alcohol will experience a blackout.

To counter this, here are 7 strategies you can try so that you might not have to quit drinking altogether.

7 strategies:


  • Set a clear intention before going out: How many drinks are “too many?” We know that you definitely don’t want to drink more than 4 in the span of 2 hours which is the fastest way to a blackout …Try limiting your drinks to the recommended amount of 3 drinks a night. If you know that 3 drinks obscures your judgment so that you coincidentally forget your best laid plans … then drop it to 2. The key is the pick a number that keeps you from crossing the line to the point of no return.

  • Eat something: Alcohol is absorbed through the walls of the stomach very quickly. The less that’s in there, the faster it will enter your bloodstream and the more quickly your blood alcohol content will rise. Eat before your drink and the alcohol will drip into your body's systems, rather than flooding them. Try eating a meal with healthy fats, such as avocado, salmon, chia, olive or coconut oil, as fats take the longest to digest and will stay in your stomach longer.

  • No pre-gaming: Find another ritual to get you pumped and feeling confident for your night out. Pounding alcohol before hitting the bar is a sure fire way to have your BAC escalate quickly and for you to lose count of how much you are drinking.

  • Arrive and assess: Instead of being on autopilot and automatically ordering your usual drink when you get to the bar, try ordering something non-alcoholic first. Try a juice mixed with mineral/seltzer water. Assess the situation, see how you’re feeling and wait about 30 minutes before ordering your first drink.

  • Try the 2x1 rule: We've all heard about alternating one alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink. If you really want to change your habits and break out of your blackout behaviour, try two non-alcohol drinks in-between every alcoholic one. You will be forced to drink slower and you'll be getting the benefits of extra hydration.

  • No shots or doubles: This might seem obvious but shots and doubles are one of the fastest ways for your BAC to rise quickly. If you "have to" do a shot every once and awhile, make sure you chase it with a non-alcoholic drink and give yourself some time before the next one.

  • Buddy up: It's hard for many of us to keep ourselves accountable. If we keep our intentions to ourselves, we are more able to talk ourselves out of them. Do you have a friend you could talk to about this? Finding an accountability buddy and telling them your intentions will help you stay on track.

It’s also important to do the inner work necessary to avoid repeating the same cycles. If you have experienced a blackout in the past, and have lingered feelings of shame, regret, embarrassment or sadness, give yourself some extra love and forgiveness. Reach out, share your story with a trusted friend.

If you are a friend on the receiving end and hearing of someone else's blackout, make sure to offer them safety, non-judgment and support instead of laughing it off or minimizing it.

We know that by stuffing these feelings, we will only keep setting ourselves up for the kind of artificial release that comes with alcohol, then we drink too much again to escape brain chatter or pain, and the cycle continues.

Are you committed to breaking this cycle? Which strategy will you try?

Have you ever had conversations with friends about blackouts? Please forward this info to them ... let's work together to make this less of a taboo topic!

Cheers to clarity and crystal clear memories,


How to be accountable

Gretchen Rubin, self-professed happiness expert and author of many books on the topic of happiness, describes habits as the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. In her book, Better than Before, she describes the strategies we can exploit to change our habits, including… you guessed it!


Gretchen also explains that not everyone will respond to the same kind of accountability, because some people are more responsive to private accountability, and some of us respond better to public accountability.

I am definitely a public accountability kind of gal - an example of this is declaring certain intentions on Facebook or in certain group forums for school. However, I appreciate a mix of public and private because there are certain details I prefer to keep to myself or between a small, select group. You will find the combination of accountability strategies that works before for you - the key, as always, is to put them in place and take action on them.

Find your Sip Sister

Long before I even knew what a health coach was, let alone began studying to be one, I found a friend who became my accountability buddy in redefining my relationship to alcohol. We created a shared google document, and used it to write our intentions, be honest about our challenges, and seek support from one another. We called each other “sip sisters.” Our goal was to learn how to drink in moderation, try out periods of sobriety, and mostly to have a great time without going overboard. Learning how to “sip” seemed like a good metaphor for drinking in moderation, it denotes the ability to slowly savour and enjoy rather than suck back drinks like there’s no tomorrow.

Here are some of the qualities you will want to look for in a Sip Sister:

Non-judgemental - Look for someone who has the ability to be empathetic, understanding and caring. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but what does non-judgemental mean to you? For example, if you have different goals, one person simply wanting to drink less, and the other trying to be sober, it might difficult to understand the other person’s choices.

Shared experiences and goals - It will help your Sip Sister to be non-judgemental if you have similar experiences and goals in mind. Finding someone who also wants to explore the “Drink Less Party More” philosophy is a good starting place.

Firm but loving - Sip Sisters are honest and direct in their feedback and observations, and loving in their delivery. You know that you can count on them to “tell it like it is” while doing their best to show you that you are loved and supported no matter what.

Responsible and resourceful - Your Sip Sister should be good at keeping commitments, showing up for scheduled check ins, sending you texts / reminders when you need it etc. It is also a great help if your accountability buddy helps you find new solutions if you find yourself slipping or repeating the same patterns.

Other accountability strategies:

Talk is cheap - take action

Create specific blocks of time where you are going to put your intentions into action. Set aside 10 minutes a day to practice your gratitudes, brags and desires. Get clear on your intentions by scheduling 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to journal. Remember, as my business mentor Marie Forleo always says, “If it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t exist” - so make sure to actually put these time slots into your calendar.

Set Reminders

Technology can be your best friend at times. I absolutely love setting reminders in my phone that give me a boost during the day or night. If I feel like I’m heading into a situation that might be particularly challenging, I set a reminder for myself with words of encouragement.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to take a techno-break, consider a good luck charm or amulet. It can be in the form of a bracelet, ring or another accessory that you can easily see. Write down your intentions in your journal, and state clearly what the charm will remind you of. Then, every time you see the charm, you will be reminded of your intentions for yourself.

Give yourself a reward

How will you feel after a month of sticking to your intentions? Pretty great, right? And think about all that money you will have saved from spending less money on drinks every week.

Consider setting a monthly or even weekly reward for yourself as an incentive to stick with your intentions. How about a massage, spa date, concert, or weekend getaway? After a month of sticking to your intentions, you deserve it!

Start a Sip Sister Play Group

I read somewhere that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Understandibly, not all of your friends might be on board with you new intentions for drinking. However, there may be more people than you think in your life who are willing to give it a try.

This group could be online (Facebook groups are great for this, and you can set the private to “secret” if you want to keep in confidential), or in person. I have a dream that someday soon there can be Sip Sister meet-ups in every city!

Host a Drink Less Party More meetup

If you are a public accountability kinda gal, be bold! Make your intentions public by announcing your desire to drink less while still having as much fun as possible, and getting the most out of life! Set up an event, be clear about your intentions in the event invite, and as others to join in.

If you’d like an advance copy of #Drinklesspartymore: How to have a great night (and life!) without getting wasted, make sure to sign up to my mailing list and send me a message saying "yes please!" and I’ll make sure you get one! Free!

Which one of these strategies will you use to stick to your intentions? Have I missed one of your favourite accountability strategies? If so, let me know in the comments.

Can't wait to hear from you,


5 Tips for Staying Cool during Hot Summer Celebrations

Some of you will have (maybe) celebrated Canada day on July 1, others will be celebrating July 4th this weekend, and well, for everyone else not in Canada or the US, why not celebrate the beginning of July just for the heck of it??

I keep getting reports of how dang HOT it is in so many parts of North America, hotter even than where I am in Mexico!! So I thought it timely to post my top tips for staying hydrated while having the most fun ever. This will be short and sweet aka less reading, more playing.

Here are my 5 top tips for staying cool amidst the steamy celebrations.

  1. Hydrate with H2O: This is one thing you do want to overindulge on! Try infusing water with mint, basil, slices of cucumber, strawberries, rose petals, lemon or lime, and of course, plenty of ice to keep it cool (warm water with slightly fermenting floaties = not cool)

  2. BYONAB: A slightly longer acronym but oh so important!! Bring your own non-alcoholic beverage, and make it delicious!! N/a mojitos and spritzers are my favourite.

  3. Two to one: If you are choosing to drink alcohol, drink two non-alcoholic beverages in between each alcoholic one. This is where your infused waters, spritzers and mojitos come in handy. Plus, if you are switching it up but don’t want anyone to know you are drinking less, how are they going to tell the difference if it’s the same pretty drink in your hand, minus the booze?

  4. Sip it: When it’s hot out, it can be tempting to chug down a refreshing beverage, forgetting that it’s full of alcohol. If you are drinking alcohol, sip it slowly or make sure it has extra ice so you aren’t tempted to down it quickly.

  5. Eat something: Summer picnics and BBQs are full of food, but sometimes the heat can kill your appetite. Don’t forget to snack through the afternoon and evening to slow the absorption of alcohol. Proteins and healthy fats take longer to digest and therefore will stay in your stomach longer.

That’s all for now, my beauty!! Please share these tips with your friends … so we can all enjoy savvy, sassy (not sloppy) summer good-times.